The best GMAT prep strategies for non-native speakers
Posted on
06
Jul 2021

The best GMAT non-native speaker prep strategies

by: Apex GMAT
Contributor: Ilia Dobrev
Date: 6th July, 2021

GMAT non-native speaker test tips:

  1. Practice your English daily.
  2. Expand your vocabulary.
  3. Work on your grammar.
  4. Learn to understand the context.

 

The GMAT is a multiple-choice, computer adaptive test (CAT) that is offered in over 110 countries worldwide. If you are a non-native speaker that wants to sit the test to gain admissions to a prestigious business school then you will be required to not only work through the questions but to also build a solid understanding of the English language in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and semiotics. Although the GMAC has taken some measures towards reducing the semantic complexity of the exam (like reducing idioms), it remains rather challenging for people with limited fluency in English. Section wise, even good mathematicians find the English on the quantitative section more challenging than the actual problems.

However, being a non-native speaker is not necessarily a disadvantage. Since the exam is actually created specifically for native English speakers, a lot of the test itself is meant to trick native English speakers. What’s really important here is that native speakers and non-native speakers pick up language differently and, more often than not, looking at the test from a non-native speaking background can actually help you skip over all of the little traps that are set up for native speakers. The key is to adopt a bit of a different approach to GMAT preparation in order to overcome and even capitalize on your language fluency. The way you have learned English or any other foreign language gives you access to secondary grammar that improves your semantic skills and allows you to effortlessly navigate in different types of contexts, which is vital for the verbal section. Some languages (French, Latin, etc.) have similarities to English in terms of roots and word formation, and even grammar, which you can use to your own advantage.

With more than a decade of coaching GMAT test takers to elite performance, we have compiled a succinct list of strategies that will help non-native speakers improve their grasp of the language requirements necessary to achieve a 700+ GMAT score.

 

  • Practice your English daily.

The best way to improve your English is to immerse yourself in it daily. Employing practices that were familiar to you when you started learning the language like watching movies, TV series, or YouTube videos with English audio and subtitles, reading books, listening to music etc., help you develop a sense of the structural flow of speech. The rise of podcasting and the abundance of blogs on different topics also allows you to find the resource you are searching for in your desired form. Even changing the interface of your personal devices like smartphones or laptops helps you keep up with practice.

Useful online publications to read are The Economist, Financial Times, The Daily Mail, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, etc.

 

  • Expand your vocabulary.

You need a broad vocabulary for the quantitative section at least as much as for the verbal one. It lays the groundwork of any skill related to tackling problems on the GMAT test.

You can enrich your vocabulary by creating two types of dictionaries:

  • One can include all unknown words you encounter while you are solving GMAT practice tests, reading through guides, studying whiteboards, or even watching GMAT videos. Of course, you should be mindful that this does not guarantee that you will encounter every possible word use, or even any of those worlds on your GMAT test, but it will considerably help you to navigate within context.
  • The other dictionary should include words that you are familiar with but you would like to use more often in your verbal and written speech. Such words might be expressions that you often find in problems or readings that you want to gain a stronger understanding about. You can revisit these words during your final GMAT preparation days. 

 

  • Work on your grammar.

While you are expanding your vocabulary you must make sure that your grammar knowledge is solid enough to allow you to apply new words and identify any structural mistakes, especially in the verbal section. Non-native speakers become well versed in grammar through practicing grammar rules rather than learning English by ear, during childhood. This makes them more disciplined upon evaluating alternatives in Sentence Correction problems. Reading scientific content, doing practice tests, exploring proven media outlets and blogs can all give you examples of strong grammar usage and teach your eye to catch fallacious sentence structures.

 

  • Learn to understand the context.

Finally, focusing on the context of a paragraph, answer choice, question, etc. is the last piece of the jigsaw and should be central to your GMAT preparation. Being able to filter out pillar keywords and context is more crucial than knowing every single word. 

Parts of this article emphasized on vocabulary and grammar because they play a crucial role in understanding a bigger portion of the gist of the text, which lowers the chances of missing out on important pieces of information. Focusing on the scope and extracting the underlying knowledge that each problem is built around is the main solution path for deriving the right answer. In fact, if you are good at this in your own language it will be easier for you to get the logic behind the question as the GMAC is aiming to test one’s language skills irrespective of English specifically.

If you would like to speak to a GMAT instructor about how you can accelerate your GMAT preparation as a non native speaker, schedule a call here: Book a Call.

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Posted on
08
Apr 2021

GMAT Factorial Problem: Estimation & Scenario Solution

GMAT Factorial Introduction

Factorials and divisibility, together. Two mathematical kids from opposite sides of the tracks, they come together and fall in love and they create this problem. Here we’re asked what numbers might divide some new number 20 factorial plus 17. As a refresher, a factorial is simply the number times each integer below it. So in this case, 20! is equal to 20 x 19 x 18 …. x 3 x 2 x 1. It’s a huge number. And it’s not at all possible to process in GMAT time. What we want to notice about any factorial is that it has as factors every number that it contains. So 20! is divisible by 17, it’s divisible by 15, it’s divisible by 13, 9, 2, what have you and any combination of them as well.

What The GMAT is Counting On You Not Knowing

When we’re adding the 17 though, the GMAT is counting on the idea that we don’t know what to do with it and in fact that’s the entire difficulty of this problem. So I want you to imagine 20! as a level and we’re going to take a look at this graphically. So 20! can be comprised by stacking a whole bunch of 15’s up. Blocks of 15. How many will there be? Well 20 x 19 x 18 x 17 x 16 x 14 times all the way down the line. There will be that many 15’s. But 20! will be divisible by 15. Similarly, by 17, by 19, by any number. They will all stack and they all stack up precisely to 20! because 20! is divisible by any of them.

Answer

So when we’re adding 17 to our number all we need to see is that, hey, 15 doesn’t go into 17, it’s not going to get all the way up there. 17 fits perfectly. 19? guess what? It’s too big and we’re going to have a remainder. So our answer here is B, only 17.

For other problems like this, other factorials, and what have you, please check out the links below and we will see you next time. If you enjoyed this GMAT problem, try your hand at this Science Fair Problem.

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Posted on
10
Mar 2021

GMAT Ratio Problem – Mr. Smiths Class

GMAT Ratio DS Problem

Expressing Different Notations

Hey guys!

Expressing different notations is often challenging when you’re first starting out on the GMAT and by different notations mean percentages fractions decimals ratios. We learn all these separately and we tend to of them as separate systems of math when in fact they’re all different expressions of the same math. One half is no different from 0.5 is no different from 50 percent there are different ways of the same thing.

Breaking Down The Problem

In this problem all their testing is our ability to shift notations. We’re being asked what the ratio, keyword ratio, is between boys and girls in the or what do we need is just that a ratio it’s fairly straightforward. So they’re probably going to come to us with weird information that doesn’t quite look like a ratio. The big thing to note before we dive in is that when we’re being asked for a ratio. In fact, when we’re being asked for any sort of relative notation, fractions, percentages, anything that needs a base that is compared to a whole. We don’t need precise numbers.

Possible ways to solve this problem

So this leaves us open either to run scenarios if we want to or to deal entirely in the relative. So we’re looking for an expression of that ratio in a non-ratio sort of language. Number one tells us there are three times as many boys and girls. We can run a scenario with 3 boys, 1 girl, 75 boys, 25 girls, but we’re being given that ratio. It’s being expressed in language rather than with the term ratio or with the two dots : in between but it’s still a ratio. So it’s sufficient!

What Did You Miss?

Correction!! Number one states there are three times as many girls as there are boys. Why do we leave that error in? To point out that here it doesn’t matter. We’re not looking to determine whether the ratio is 1 boy to 3 girls or 3 girls to 1 boy or 3 boys to 1 girl. The only thing that matters, the threshold issue on this problem, is getting to a single specific ratio. What that is or in this case even reversing the boys and girls doesn’t matter because it’s a referendum on the type of information that we have. The moment we have a quantitative comparison of boys and girls coming from number one we know that number one is sufficient. Being able to have flexibility and even focus on the more abstract thing you’re looking for sometimes leads to careless errors on the details though and this is important. Many times those careless errors don’t matter, freeing yourself up to make those and understanding that you don’t have to manage the nitty-gritty once you have the big abstract understanding is very important.

Looking at Statement No. 2

Number two goes fractional, telling us that 1/4 of the total class is boys. We can break that into a ratio by understanding that a ratio compares parts to parts whereas a fraction is part of a whole so one out of four has a ratio of one to three. If this isn’t immediately obvious, imagine a pizza and cut it into four slices. One slice is one quarter of the total pizza the comparison of the one slice to the other three slices is the ratio one to three so if you get one slice and your friends get the other ones. The ratio of your slice to the others is 1:3. You have 1/4 of the total so two is also sufficient. Therefore, the answer choice here is D.

Hope this helped guys! Practice this skill of going in between these different notations because it’s one that pays off in dividends. Check out the links below for other problems and we’ll see you again real soon.

If you enjoyed this GMAT Ratio DS Problem, try your hand at this Triangle DS Problem.

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Posted on
17
Feb 2021

Data Sufficiency: Area of a Triangle Problem

Hey guys! Today we’re checking out a geometry Data Sufficiency problem asking for the area of a triangle, and while the ask might seem straightforward, it’s very easy to get caught up in the introduced information on this problem. And this is a great example of a way that the GMAT can really dictate your thought processes via suggestion if you’re not really really clear on what it is you’re looking for on DS. So here we’re looking for area but area specifically is a discrete measurement; that is we’re going to need some sort of number to anchor this down: whether it’s the length of sides, or the area of a smaller piece, we need some value!

Begin with Statement #2

Jumping into the introduced information, if we look at number 2, because it seems simpler, we have x = 45 degrees. Now you might be jumping in and saying, well, if x = 45 and we got the 90 degree then we have 45, STOP. Because if you’re doing that you missed what I just said. We need a discrete anchor point. The number of degrees is both relative in the sense that the triangle could be really huge or really small, and doesn’t give us what we need. So immediately we want to say: number 2 is insufficient. Rather than dive in deeply and try and figure out how we can use it, let’s begin just by recognizing its insufficiency. Know that we can go deeper if we need to but not get ourselves worked up and not invest the time until it’s appropriate, until number 1 isn’t sufficient and we need to look at them together.

Consider Statement #1

Number 1 gives us this product BD x AC = 20. Well here, we’re given a discrete value, which is a step in the right direction. Now, what do we need for area? You might say we need a base and a height but that’s not entirely accurate. Our equation, area is 1/2 x base x height, means that we don’t need to know the base and the height individually but rather their product. The key to this problem is noticing in number 1 that they give us this B x H product of 20, which means if we want to plug it into our equation, 1/2 x 20 is 10. Area is 10. Number 1 alone is sufficient. Answer choice A.

Don’t Get Caught Up With “X”

If we don’t recognize this then we get caught up with taking a look at x and what that means and trying to slice and dice this, which is complicated to say the least. And I want you to observe that if we get ourselves worked up about x, then immediately when we look at this BD x AC product, our minds are already in the framework of how to incorporate these two together. Whereas, if we dismiss the x is insufficient and look at this solo, the BD times AC, then we’re much more likely to strike upon that identity. Ideally though, of course, before we jump into the introduced information, we want to say, well, the area of a triangle is 1/2 x base x height. So, if I have not B and H individually, although that will be useful, B x H is enough. And then it’s a question of just saying, well, one’s got what we need – check. One is sufficient. Two doesn’t have what we need – isn’t sufficient, and we’re there. So,

I hope this helped. Look for links to other geometry and fun DS problems below and I’ll see you guys soon. Read this article about Data sufficiency problems and triangles next to get more familiar with this type of GMAT question.

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Posted on
25
Mar 2020

GMAT Videos: Will They Help Improve My Score?

You most likely navigated to this video after watching some other GMAT videos. If you’re self-prepping by watching a lot of GMAT videos I’ve got some bad news for you. It’s a very low yield way to prep, especially if you’re doing it to the exclusion of other things.

Passive Learning

Now we have plenty of videos up here: some informational, many problems, testimonials, all kinds of stuff. It’s not that they don’t have a role in your preparation.

However, if you’re spending a lot of your prep time on a regular basis watching videos then what you’re engaging in is passive rather than active learning. Again, that’s a very low yield way to learn. That’s the most generous explanation. A realistic explanation might be that you’re using these videos, going around YouTube, looking at different platforms, as a way to feel like you’re making progress. Especially if you’ve been prepping for a long time without a measurable result or if you’ve hit a plateau.

This idea of doing more, engaging more, watching more videos, doing more problems, seems like a really good idea because that’s worked for you in the past. But in fact what you’re doing is self-medicating the psychological anxiety of either not improving or having to put forth meaningful effort & work to change the way you’re approaching the GMAT.

Change Your Approach to Watching GMAT Videos

The good news is there’s a solution for this and it doesn’t mean that you need to stop watching videos. When you’re watching GMAT videos you should be then taking a step back and practicing what you’ve learned. Changing what you’ve learned to see if it’s really sunk in or if you’re really just feeling forward momentum because you’re spending time exposed to the GMAT.

This is sort of a kin to feeling smarter because you carry books around, if you never read the books. You know the book, you know the title and you know the author. If you don’t know what’s inside or you have the story memorized but you don’t know the meaning behind it, the symbolism, why the author wrote it, then you can’t really be said to know the book.

Problem Identification Is Only Half The Work

The GMAT is the same way. It’s very easy to convince ourselves that we’re making progress. Or that we’re proficient by saying “oh yeah that’s a work rate problem. That’s a data sufficiency problem which is a system of equations”. And use that anchor of identification as a way to say I know this when in fact it’s a very surface level understanding.

In order to get to a deeper level, you need to not only recognize what you’re looking at but be able to respond to it in a new and interesting way.

What you need to be able to do is not just recognize the problem when you’re looking at those types of problems but recognize them within the general universe of other types of problems that you’re looking at. Just like when you’re sitting in the exam. A core skill is being able to not just recognize the problem but also have a good idea of what to do when you encounter that type of problem.

A work rate problem, to take this example further isn’t a particular problem, it’s a category of problems. Depending upon the way they introduce this problem determines what solution paths, what avenues of approach are going to be the most useful, the most time-efficient and depending on your learning style the most intuitive for you. The skill that you really want to grow in watching GMAT videos is using them as a basis in order to have a better sense of what you ought to be doing. That is, develop the skill of decision-making in an unknown environment not just identification.

Continue to Watch GMAT Videos

As you continue to watch videos keep this in mind but if you’re sitting there just watching video after video, frankly you’re wasting your time. Be sure to take a step back and ensure that you’re able to not just replicate what you’ve seen done in a video but to understand when it’s appropriate to use it and be prepared to do so in a less confined, less predetermined setting. I hope that is helpful and it’s not designed to make you feel bad about what you’re doing but to enhance what you’re doing. I’ll see you guys next time.

If you enjoyed this video watch: How to Avoid Stupid Mistakes on the GMAT.

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